Third-Round Notebook: Thompson No Longer Just A Curiosity
By Stuart Hall
Carmel, Ind. – At the outset of the week, 12-year-old Alexis Thompson was more of a novelty at this 107th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Now, with just eight players remaining, she is a bonafide contender.
With a 5-and-4 win over Lizette Salas in Thursday’s afternoon third round, Thompson has now become the youngest player ever to reach the quarterfinals. And she’s every bit confident that the run is not over.
“All the questions are ‘Are you intimidated by all of the older people?’ ” Thompson said. “I mean, I practice my game … I just think I’m really good and go out there and play my game. I’ve made it this far and I’m really happy, and tomorrow I’ll just go out and play my best.”
There is little reason to believe she won’t play her best. In 44 match play holes this week, she has made just three bogeys – none in the last 33. Wednesday’s performance was a clinic in accuracy as she hit 19 of 22 fairways and missed a trio of greens in regulation.
Her elders in this event are duly impressed with her accomplishment.
“I have a 12-year-old sister and I cannot even imagine her making it to the state amateur tournament, much less the U.S. Amateur,” said 20-year-old Amanda Blumenherst.
Mina Harigae, the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, says she feels old by comparison and she’s only 17.
“The junior girls are getting so much better,” Harigae said.
If Thompson is at a disadvantage, then it may be keeping up on the 6,595-yard, par-72 Pete Dye design.
“This course is pretty long, especially when it’s windy,” she said.
“I’m having to hit a lot of woods into holes, which came in handy with the afternoon tee times. I hit a lot of 9-woods and 7-woods in.
You just do your best with them. Just hit on the green or close to them.”
Teammates Turned Foes
For about four hours on Friday, Duke teammates Jennie Lee of Henderson, Nev., and Blumenherst of Scottsdale, Ariz., will put their friendship aside for a quarterfinal match.
Born two days apart back in November 1986, the Blue Devil juniors have been a part of the 2006 USA Curtis Cup team, the 2006 USA World Amateur Team in South Africa and back-to-back NCAA Division I women’s championship teams. They play together nearly three days a week during the school year.
Friday will be the first time they have faced each other in a match-play event.
“I’m just going to treat it like any other match,” said Blumenherst, who has reached the round of eight in a USGA championship event for the first time in seven appearances. “I’m just trying to play the golf course, so it doesn’t really matter who I’m playing.”
Lee and Blumenherst each won their third-round matches by 6-and-5 scores.
Rikako Morita had to feel as if she were playing a road game in the late stage of her 20-hole loss to reigning Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim in Thursday's second round.
When Kim holed a 7-footer to halve the 19th hole, one of her American Junior Golf Association buddies screamed, “Great putt.”
Kim just smiled.
On the 20th tee, Kim anxiously watched as her ball skirted out of the thick rough and into the primary cut.
“Whew,” shouted another of her buddies.
Kim would go on to birdie the hole and advance to the third round, where she beat Alison Walshe, 4 and 3.
“I was a little bit nervous, but thinking I could win if I played my usual [game],” said Morita, through an interpreter, of going extra holes with Kim.
There is something extremely refreshing by youthful candidness and Kim speaks her mind between shrugs and giggles.
Seeking to become the first player since Kelli Kuehne in
1995-96 to win back-to-back titles, Kim readily admits that her confidence level is never quite high. She also explains that when reading greens, she is often wrong.
Her motto is: “Expect the worst and hope for the best.”
When asked why she has a less-than-positive attitude about her game, in her own joyful self-deprecating way she said: “Golf will show you.
I don’t want to be a cocky golfer.”
When asked if she enjoys the spotlight of being a national champion, she added: “I don’t think I’m a big deal.”
Trust us, if she wins a second straight U.S. Women’s Amateur, she will be a big deal.
By The Numbers
Proving that match play is just a matter of one hole at a time, the following are some interesting numbers posted by the quarterfinalists. Mina Harigae, Thompson and Kim have played their three matches in six under with concessions. Blumenherst is five under, while Ha Na Jang is five over. … Given the extreme heat in Carmel these past few days, efficiency and expediency may prove beneficial come this weekend. Of the eight quarterfinalists, Thompson has played the fewest match-play holes (44). Blumenherst has played 46, Lee 47 and Harigae 50. Jang has played the most with 55, including extra holes in her first- and third-round matches.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer with the Golf Press Association whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.